I've talked about writing, editing, illustration, and creating a web presence. Now comes actually creating the book. Here, Karen suggested I bring in a wonderful designer, Jeanne Abboud. A book designer chooses the font, the spacing, and the "look" of a book. I don't know about you, but when I pick up a book that's completely unknown to me (based, yes, I admit it, on the cover, I flip through the first pages. If I don't like the font or spacing -- if it looks too crowded, for example, with tiny margins to save printing costs -- I'm a lot less likely to buy it.
Because Lost in Lexicon had so many "spot" illustrations that appear partway down a page or in a corner, the text also had to be arranged precisely to wrap around the pictures. That meant that every copy edit required adjustment by Jeanne.
Finally, the book was edited, illustrated, designed, and ready to print. I had researched inexpensive printers in the US and abroad, making a huge spreadsheet comparing prices; but Jeanne insisted on working with a local printer, one where she could go on site and keep an eye on the quality of the printing. We selected a good, thick, cream-colored paper that wouldn't allow the heavy ink of the illustrations to show through.
The price difference between this printer and the others I had researched was on the order of a dollar a book; it meant that on books I sold through Greenleaf, I would come a few cents shy of covering my costs. That hurt. But in the end I gave in. I remembered that at this stage of my career, the goal was not profit but quality and reputation. Besides, I could make the money back on books I sold through my website.
The next big question was how many books to print. The printer urged me to go high, say 5000 books. Per-book price drops with larger printing runs. On the other hand, I was aware that even the average traditionally published book sells fewer than 2000 copies. I wavered, and finally I settled on 3000 copies.(Now, with the first edition out of print, I have close to 300 left.)
Finally, the day came. The printer personally delivered the books in the back of his car, and Leo and I unloaded them into the office. The books were beautiful: cover art, paper, illustrations, layout.
Months later, Jeanne Abboud's work was recognized when Lost in Lexicon won a Ben Franklin Award for best two-color interior design.